Founders’ Day 13 April: 121 years of working for gender equality – why aren’t we there yet?

Today marks Founders’ Day for the National Council of Women – 121 years today since Kate Sheppard founded the gender equality organisation.

Did Kate Sheppard realise, when she founded the National Council of Women  in 1896 – when New Zealand was so far ahead of the rest of the world in giving women the vote – that we would still be working so hard to achieve gender equality in 2017?

Women are being paid 11.8 – 14% less than male counterparts; 1/4 women experience intimate partner violence or sexual violence in their lifetime; and women only occupy about 30% of seats in Parliament.

Since 1896, New Zealand has progressed from the very first public screening of a film, to people being able to stream the latest movies on their iPad. Since 1896 we’ve progressed from importing the very first cars into our country, to now having approximately 3 million cars on our roads. We discovered and generated geothermal electricity, we opened an international airport in Auckland and we did our first heart transplant.  Entertainment, transport, electricity, international travel and ground-breaking operations – these developments have all hugely improved our quality of life. Sounds great huh? Yet meanwhile, we are not progressing where it really counts.

Our quality of life would be greatly improved if we were a gender equal country, and  National Council of Women National President, Rae Duff says she can see a better way of life for all New Zealanders – one in which we are all happier, healthier and economically stronger.

“If our founding President Kate Sheppard were to see where we are at today, I think she would be pleased with some of the progress that has been made but also saddened by the gender inequality issues that still persist in our society” says Rae Duff.

“The National Council of Women is incredibly proud of our history –  some of our achievements include free education for children, the appointment of women Justices of the Peace, equality in divorce law, and greater representation of women on boards and councils,” says Rae Duff. “But, we still have a long way to go until New Zealand is truly gender equal. Let’s take stock this Founders’ Day and allow ourselves to both reflect on where we have come from – and allow ourselves to feel excited about what the future may hold.“

“To our members, leaders and supporters – Happy Founders’ Day.”

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